Over the past month, we’ve had stark reminders of how much most of us have to be grateful for. Our homes and our health. Our families and our neighborhoods. Heat and power and food to eat. Our safety, and indeed our very own lives.
We’ve seen – far too dramatically and close to home – how fragile those things can be, and we’ve been reminded not to take them for granted.
We’ve also been reminded, so clearly, of the extraordinary power of organized compassion. What people in this city have done – what you have done – to provide comfort, food, blankets, supplies, money, and so many helping hands, has brought hope into places it was in short supply. In a time of darkness, that organized compassion has provided a bright and guiding light.
This Thanksgiving, I want to share one moving reminder. When Hurricane Sandy hit, Miriam Eisenstein-Drachler was evacuated from the Belle Harbor Manor in Far Rockaway and taken to the Park Slope Armory. Before she left the Armory two weeks later, she wrote an open letter – published on The New York Times website – about her experience during the hurricane, and how it took her back to a time in 1935 when she immigrated with her parents to America from Poland:
The night storm Sandy was raging forcefully – and – wrathfully, I found myself standing at the window in my room at the Belle Harbor Manor observing, both faithfully as well as fearfully, the unstoppable rise of the waters. ‘Mother nature is out of control,’ I murmured to myself. ‘May the Almighty, the Creator of mother nature, help us in this hour of need!’
At the Armory we are greeted with courtesy, gentleness and goodness beyond description… The staff and all the volunteers, who have come from near and far, epitomize love, caring and service. Such questions as: ‘Is there anything you need?’ ‘What can I do for you?’ are constantly heard throughout the day and even during the night. The prevailing climate makes one feel more secure and very, very grateful.
The organized compassion that so many of you showed – at the Armory, at John Jay High School and in shelters around the city, in Red Hook, Coney Island, Staten Island, the Rockaways, Long Beach and New Jersey – even if it can’t hold back the might of a hurricane, “it makes one feel,” as Miriam wrote, “more secure and very, very grateful.”
So much need continues, and I know our community will continue to help – over the Thanksgiving holiday, and in the colder days, weeks and months ahead. Giving time, giving money, continuing to provide the organized compassion that we are so deeply grateful for. We’ve got a list of some ways you can help on my website, and there are many more here, here, here, here, here and here.
As Miriam Eisenstein-Drachler concludes her letter:
May the world outside these walls incorporate the outstanding dynamics of the Armory in its daily flow of human interaction. This, I believe, is the basic need of the present. May it be realized in society-at-large.
Best wishes this Thanksgiving,